Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Caine Prize 2011 Short List-Story Four

"In The Spirit of McPhineas Lata" by Lauri Kubuitsile (2010, 10 pages)

The Short Listed Stories
Forth of Five Stories

The Caine Prize for African Writing will be awarded on July 11 at an award dinner in Oxford.    The Caine Prize is one of the world's top literary awards.    It is given to the author of a short story from a country in Africa.   (There is additional background information on the award in my prior post and on the Caine Prize Web Site.)    This month I am doing a series of posts on the five short stories that are short listed for the 2011 Caine Prize.

So far I have posted on "Hitting Budapest" by NoViolet Bulawayo,  "What Molly Knew" by Tim Keegan and "Butterfly Dreams by Beatrice Lamwaka.    Over all I liked all of these stories and felt the time spent in reading them was very worthwhile.   Once I have read all five of the short listed stories I will, just for fun, hazard a guess as to the winner.    All three of these stories are about the struggles of the poor to survive.

"In the Spirit of McPhineas Leta" by Lauri Kubuitsile is very different from the first three stories I posted on.   Kubuitsile is from Botswana.  She has published fourteen novels and children's books.    She has won several awards for her short stories.   

I did not like a whole lot about this story.    Maybe not everyone will relate to this but it reminded me of a script for a bad Amos and Andy Show (An American radio and then TV show that ran from about 1935 to 1952 and which made fun of  African-Americans in a grossly racist way).    I recently read Edward Said's profound Orientalism.    In this books he talks mainly about the middle east and India but a lot of what he says about the development of the attitudes of Europe toward what was once called the Orient is directly applicable to the Caine Prize stories.   One of the themes of Said's book is that in comparison to European colonizers, Asians were made to seem by "experts" as not capable of sublimating their drive for immediate pleasure in place of long term goals.  Some "experts" knew they were giving out false data and some did not but all were in the service of colonial masters.    That, in part, is one of the reasons the colonizers gave in explaining why "natives" were better off as part of  a colony than as independent nation.    It seems to me that this feeling is a dominant theme of this story.    It maybe that the story is making fun of these attitudes.    I do not think so but I am am open to the idea of it.

This story opens at the funeral for McPhineas Lata:

"This tale begins at the end ; McPhineas Lata, the
perennial bachelor who made a vocation of troubling
married women, is dead. The air above Nokanyana village
quivers with grief and rage, and not a small amount of
joy, because the troubling of married women, by its very
definition, involved a lot of trouble. But, maybe because
of his slippery personality, or an inordinate amount of
blind luck, McPhineas Lata seemed to dodge the bulk of
the trouble created by his behaviour, and left it for others
to carry on his behalf. He had, after all, admitted to Bongo
and Cliff, his left and right sidekicks, that troubling married
women was a perfect pastime because it was “all sweet and
no sweat”.

Some of the married women of the town are so upset by his departure that they  throw themselves on his grave site weeks after he is gone.    His activities were known to everyone of the village, including the husbands, who don't seem have been much bothered by the adultery of their wives.     It is almost as if he relieved them of the "business" of having to look to the needs of their wives.  Now that he is gone, the men get together in a meeting to try to figure out what he was doing for their wives that they were not.     They pool their resources and come up with some ideas to keep their wives a bit happier.    

The people in this story all seem like comic characters with no depth to them.    This story is meant to be funny but I did not find it amusing.     I was kind of relieved when I got to the end of this story (which I did read twice.)     It is very different from the other three stories I have read so far.   It is worth reading, if for no other reason, to expand your experience in this   area.     You can read it online at the  Caine Prize web page.    

I have been provided free reading material by the publisher for the Caine Prize Stoires, as I was also last year.

This is my second year blogging on the Caine Prize short stories.    Last year I think I might have been the only blogger to post on the stories, This year there is a very politically aware group of bloggers posting on each story.

One  simple way to follow the postings  is by doing a Twitter search on 
"Caine Prize".

When I complete all five posts on the Caine Prize I will try try "handicap" a winner just for fun-I invite others to please join in.   I might also do a post on the concepts of "poverty porn" and "native experts" (as the term is used by Said) as they apply to the Caine Stories.    If I do feel inclined to write such a post I will call it "Orientalism and the Caine Prize Stories".    

There are 12 more stories in this year collection of Caine Prize Stories (stories that were done at one of the Caine Prize workshops)-I will read and post (maybe in groups) on all of these stories also.    

One more short listed story to go!

2011 Caine Prize Stories-17 in all

Mel u


Short Story Slore said...

I love reading about this project you are doing. Too bad this story didn't live up to your expectations - I plan on finishing these tomorrow. So far I've read "Hitting Budapest" and I am learning a lot about this "poverty porn" being discussed. Thanks for posting on these!

Short Story Slore said...

Ok so I actually thought this story was kind of funny in the sense that it's usually men going around cheating, being controlling and in this tale it was reversed. And it was so different from the other stories nominated and I enjoyed how it played out like a sitcom episode. But I can definitely see how others would not go for this story. Off to read the others!

Mel u said...

Short Story Slore-you make a good point about this being a role reversal of the sexes-it is good to have a different lighter story in the mix